A Greek Orthodox priest carries an icon of the Virgin Mary
Jerusalem - AFP
Christian schools in Israel and east Jerusalem have threatened to stay closed for Tuesday's start of the new academic year over a financing dispute with the government, an official said.
Some 33,000 students attend some 45 Christian schools, which employ 3,000 teachers in Israel and east Jerusalem.
The director of schools overseen by the Custody of the Holy Land, Abdel Massih Fahim, said Monday the shutdown was being planned to demand equal treatment with other schools in Israel.
He said the schools had yet to receive a response to their demands from the education ministry.
Traditionally, the schools received 65 percent of their budgets from the state, with parents paying the balance. But that figure was cut to 34 percent two years ago, sharply increasing the amount parents had to come up with.
School officials have pressed for a return to the 65 percent funding figure.
The student population at the schools is 60 percent Christian and 40 percent Muslim. The schools have a history predating Israel's foundation in 1948 and are run primarily by the Roman Catholic Church.
According to Israeli official figures, 160,000 Christians live in Israel and 14,000 in annexed east Jerusalem.
The talks are taking place at a time when Christians in Israel are under growing strains, with leaders of their communities saying they are afraid in the wake of attacks by Jewish extremists on churches and other properties.